Developed by Firefly Studios, we find another installment of the Stronghold story. Stronghold 3 is a real time strategy game where you are given missions to complete in order to fulfill your destiny of assisting the Crown in regaining power throughout the lands. The story is set 10 years later with the continuation of the epic battle of the Boy and the now bitter and enraged Wolf who was once presumed dead. The Boy, who then was seeking revenge for the death of his father, is now battling the same villain to secure his own people. This was a story of rebuilding after the Wolf has taken to the cover of night and raided villages, causing a sea of panic that only you can control through each of the missions.
A tutorial is available to find out what the better set up is. The closer your stockpile to your wood camps, the quicker it is to bring in and secure your supply of wood. You can choose from either a single player military combat or economic campaign. There is a selection to play a free world type of game, where you can practice on building your village without having the village attacked. You are still able to go through the maladies such as apple blights, mad cow disease and human disease. I would suggest you build in the free world once you finish up the tutorial. It has definitely saved me a few hours of frustration. However, the free world option was pretty disappointing when I saw that no enemies were attacking. It was unrealistic and boring. I wanted more customization as to what I wanted to experience, due to it being a ‘free’ world.
I was pretty frustrated with time control issue, where I couldn’t accelerate the time to at least twice as quick. I would just let it sit there while I either played on my iPhone or PS3. I even forgot about it running once. The time issue comes up when you have to wait for your orchards or stockpile to build. Luckily, if you have just updated your game, the time issue has been solved with a new patch. I noticed that the fast forward or skip ahead may not have been included at the beginning because the first economic mission only gives you a month to complete, which proves to be nearly impossible if you haven’t done it before. That single economic mission took me a few hours to complete since I couldn’t seem to keep my villagers happy with my houses and food. One other economic mission really tired me out due to the progressive attacks on my village by the nearby wolves. I had to figure out a way to bribe peasants to protect the village and attempt to keep them alive. I wasn’t too happy with my level of playing, since I seemed to have sucked throughout and I wasn’t progressing very well.
I played in a multiplayer game online, but only got through to building up a granary and stockpile. I sort of flubbed and closed the game with just us two when there were four slots to fill. I wanted to match with a two player map for about five minutes, but to no avail. I checked to see matches where I wasn’t hosting and I couldn’t find a game to play in. The two player maps are great. If those were available on the free world and you can attack and defend against the computer, I would’ve loved the gameplay. I love playing against the computer because it prepares you for playing online.
I decided then to try out the historical sieges. That was a bad idea. On the attack, you aren’t given any direction on how to fight your enemy. Through trial and error, I figured we had to destroy the castle in order to kill everyone else, even though the gatehouse was open and the drawbridge was down. The setup made no sense to me, but I continued. The enemy AI stood there and looked on as I struck down some of their archers. While providing no defense to their counterparts, they would suddenly go into action mode once you attacked them. While defending, your primary weapon and protection is your castle. Your soldiers and armed peasants only assist you in protecting said castle. Once your castle falls, the mission is over. The idea of the game was awesome: a castle simulation that encompasses the RTS arena while providing you a great story. However, it failed and became a game where the story floated away and left you behind.
The graphics for the game were created with the Trinigy’s Vision Engine utilizing Havok physics. The comic style art for the storytelling is great in purpose and clean in its presentation throughout the pre-mission load screens. I love comics, so it kept my attention for about a few minutes more. The hovels, inns and markets are greatly constructed. I loved zooming in and just watching my village. The realism captured and executed well, but it didn’t save me from further frustration. It looked pretty and flowed great with my graphics card, but I didn’t want to play it anymore. I wished the graphics were so unbelievably awesome I would’ve been too blinded by the sheer awesomeness that was exuding from my monitor, but no, that didn’t happen. With all this frustration I’ve gained from this game, I don’t think the graphics would have saved it then. I’m pretty stubborn once I get my mind made up on continuing playing or not.
I have to say I normally don’t enjoy real time strategy games, but I appreciate the fact that they offer opportunities to utilize your quick thinking skills and tact. I’ve only taken time away from it due to being sick this past week and the growing frustration of each mission I played. I did find the military campaign to be more “mission based” and noticed that I was a bit more confident with my decision making. It gave me different outcomes from my decisions and I knew I either picked the incredibly wrong or next to best choice. With the economic missions, I was too focused on worrying about losing all of my villagers to wild animals, food shortages or unsightly diseases. I grew pretty frustrated of the layout of the missions and had to find out how to complete each part through trial and error. It was just too time consuming with little to show for.
I think the continuation of the story might have wanted to show us the characters’ growth throughout the series, however, the gameplay really fell short for me and the story was a bit disconnected. I found that this game was boring at times and I needed to just walk away from the keyboard just to get through a mission or two. I thought I would’ve been more engaged in both campaigns, but I felt that both modes were pretty bland. Yes, it had its fun moments but they were few and far between. I wanted more tactical warfare and possible military action, but all I could do was save a few people and defend my village from wolves. Damn wolves. They’re sneaky too. I think this is a strong story with several shortcomings in execution. This would be great if it was on a Steam sale, but I don’t know about full price.